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New law requires hospitals to post costs online so you know what you’re paying

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IDAHO FALLS — A new federal law requires hospitals to post medical costs online and make them more easily accessible to patients.

The purpose of the law, which went into effect Tuesday, is to promote price transparency for all medical diagnoses and procedures made by a hospital.

Douglas McBride, a spokesman for Madison Memorial Hospital in Rexburg, tells EastIdahoNews.com prices have been posted online for quite some time but might be confusing to the average person.

“Right now you can see all the costs and charges (on our website), but for any one particular diagnosis, there could be five, seven or 12 different codes that go along with it,” McBride says.

While the current listing gives you an idea of medical costs in general, McBride says it’s helpful to have the specific code to really hone in on the total cost to the patient.

“The way you get those codes is from your physician,” McBride says. “From there, you just make a call to our billing department and they can help you understand insurance coverage and the total cost to the individual.”

You can also enter in the codes on the website. Madison Memorial Hospital’s prices can be found under the “Guest” tab on their home page. Simply click on “Pricing” in the drop- down menu. At the bottom of the page, there is a link for “Inpatient Pricing,” “Outpatient Pricing” and “Surgery Center Pricing.” Once you click on any of the links, you can type the code or keyword in the search bar for a total price.

Inpatient pricing search bar at madisonmemorial.org | Website screen shot

McBride says the nature of the medical industry makes it difficult to streamline the process for people to access cost information.

“There are more than 10,000 different codes. Each one represents a particular procedure. One little change to that represents a change in the process (for the procedure),” McBride says. “Until that can be worked and made simpler for people to understand, it’s probably not going to change.”

McBride says it’s important for people to remember that the amount listed in the online search tool is just a ballpark figure for a perfect scenario. If there were any complications during a procedure or changes in medication, then it would change the total price.

“We’ve tried to make (pricing information) as simple as possible for people to access and still meet the requirements,” says McBride. “We know it’s frustrating and confusing for people. We’ll continue to do the best we can to (refine the process) and make it simpler for people to understand.”

Other hospitals in eastern Idaho have also listed prices online. Coleen Neimann, a spokeswoman for Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, says price estimates and information about the billing process have been available online since 2007.

“We believe it’s important for patients to be able to make informed choices about their healthcare and understand their financial obligations,” Niemann wrote in a statement to us. “We will continue to comply with the regulation.

Price estimates at EIRMC are found under the “Online Tools” tab at EIRMC.com. From there, click on “Patient Pricing” in the drop-down menu and click on “Pricing Estimates and Information.” The link at the bottom of the page will lead you to two separate medical cost lists.

Detailed medical cost list at eirmc.com | Website screen shot

We reached out to Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello for comment but have not received a response.

Here is a link to the pricing info for each hospital’s website:

Madison Memorial Hospital

Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center

Mountain View Hospital

Bingham Memorial Hospital/Comprehensive Care Clinics in Idaho Falls

Portneuf Medical Center

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